Royal Air Force VOLMET

For a pilot at 32,000 feet with the HF on 5450kHz, a comforting sign that he is on his way home is the still small voice that says, "This is Royal Air Force Volmet" from West Drayton.

This is the Royal Air Force Weather Service. "Volmet" has its root in French and appears officially as "Meteorological Information for Aircraft in Flight" Catchy, but I still don't see the connection.

Weather conditions are given by pre-set voice samples. The voice they used is old-school RAF, the stuff of Ealing Studios circa 1952. When announcing maximum visibility one night, we were half expecting: "Moonlight can be cruelly deceptive, Amanda..."

New utility listeners can try 4742kHz for RAF Flight Watch. Architect is the Flight Watch callsign. Despite all the new technology, the main enemy to flight operations is the weather. Listen for these codes to precis weather to pilots preparing to fly between British airbases. An airfield is Status Blue when visibility is 8Km or better, cloudbase is 2500ft, White at 5Km visibility and 1500ft cloudbase, Green at 3.7Km with cloud at 700ft and getting tricky Status Yellow at 1.8Km with cloud at 300 feet. Try your luck landing Status Amber with hardly a kilometre visibility and cloud billowing at 200 feet.

Less than 0.9Km is Red and Black is a no-go. From this we will learn that a Wattisham Blue has little to do with being an all-round good egg while up at University, but "Forever Amber" is a good status for most of my holidays in Wales.